Well, Art Basel Hong Kong has been and gone, summer art fair season has ended, and vacation is upon us. There have been plenty of posts on the Basel brand’s inaugural HK fair, so why add another to the pile? Really I just wanted an excuse to post lots and lots of pics of my favourite art works and events (I hear that’s the thing with blogging).
Over 60,000 visitors came in from all over the world to view, and buy, works from over 3000 artists. Paul Kasmin gallery director, Bethanie Brady, noted that there were “a lot more Europeans this year. And they’ve really amped up their VIPs”. Russian collectors Roman Abramovic, Dasha Zhukova, and Maria Baibakova were spotted at the fair, as was the director of Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (MOCA), Jeffrey Deitch, Indonesian collector Budi Tek, and Kate Moss, whose presence caused a frenzy of iPhone activity.
Booths were bigger this year, making room for more works and larger feature pieces, and quality was taken up a notch. “In fact”, commented an artist friend, “quality is up all around. The high end was always good, but now you have the mid range and lower range both taken up several notches too. Problem is, now you don’t have a big pile of c*#p to compare the good works against”. Not the worst of problems to have. There were so many things I wanted to take home, a few already sold by the time I sauntered up to the dealers. There was still a substantial amount of the usual brand artists on offer — Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst — to appease an ever brand hungry Hong Kong and Asian market, but also much on offer from newer emerging artists, both Asian and International. All in all, despite some truly horrific weather marring the collector preview, the five day fair resulted in reportedly strong sales and I hear quite a number of happy gallerists.
If you didn’t make it to what was the biggest and most influential art fair in Hong Kong, here’s my dispatch from Berlin on my favourite pieces, booths and events, plus who attended.
Adrian Wong’s Absolut Art Bureau Bar at Fringe Club
Entering through a bathroom where a liveried attendant spritzes you ceremoniously with perfume, you step downstairs into Hong Kong’s iconic Fringe Club, a former ice factory, and into a fantastical world of animatronic furry creatures playing musical instruments on stage; uniformed actors manning the bar and entrance; a septuagenarian Chinese opera singer; duck infused and monkey picked oolong tea martinis; and tanks full of fish, frogs, and sharks (this resulted in a bloody performance on one night as the sharks devoured the frogs), not to mention a packed crowd of Hong Kong’s artists and designers. This was Wun Dun, Hong Kong artist Adrian Wong‘s immersive art installation bar for Absolut Art Bureau, the brand’s fifth of these experiences. Relocating to Hong Kong eight years ago, Wong has since earned the reputation as the city’s most ‘loveable oddball’. The installation, which drew on Hong Kong’s layered and rich history and blending of cultures, certainly upheld this reputation.
The Chapman Brothers at Whitecube
I dropped by Whitecube to check out Jake and Dinos Chapman‘s latest offering of tiny Nazis, crucified Ronald McDonalds, cannibals, zombies and defaced decrepit portraits of Dorian Gray. “Are you shocked? Is it controversial?” I asked one visitor. “No, it’s just put me off my cheeseburgers,” was the answer. Ahh, contemporary art. Nothing is sacred, nothing shocks anymore.
As the younger Chapman, Jake, guided the press on a preview of his solo exhibition at the start of the week, he waxed lyrical about existentialism, the Freudian death drive, and why contemporary art is a joke, with the flair and drama of a Wagnerian opera. All present were accommodated with a string of quotable quotes. “The job of the artist is to make people ugly”, he declared, and “happiness is overrated”. However, at the end of one interview, Chapman sheepishly asked, “Was that alright?”. Not so diabolical after all. Even enfants terribles need to be loved it seems.
Asia Society Gala Dinner
What would Art Basel be without the parties? Well, there were plenty of them this time around compared to the fair’s last few years as Art HK. The week of art parties kicked off with a dinner at the Asia Society in collaboration with Kreemart. Created by New York art dealer Raphael Castoriano, Kreemart marries art with desert to create lavish ‘art happenings’. Previous artist collaborators have included Los Carpinteros (with a cannibalistic feast for those who have a sweet tooth), and Marina Abramovic (it was a Gogolian affair where guests got to walk away with the artist’s chocolate nose), and Maurizio Cattelan. This dinner saw Japanese conceptual artist Mariko Mori present an esoteric and ethereal tea ceremony, with musical accompanied by her composer hubby, Ken Ikeda. Check out the performance below and my interview with Mori in a previous post, .
The gala dinner was attended by an array of art world figures, including Takashi Murakami, Arne Glimcher of Pace Gallery, Chinese artist Zhang Fengzhi, Mori Art Museum‘s Fumio Nanjo, gallerist Paul Kasmin, David Maupin of Lehmann Maupin gallery, and W Magazine editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi.
Hong Kong non-profit art space, Para/Site, was once again present at the art fair (last year arts patron Yana Peel and I curated Art Flat in collaboration with Para/Site for its booth), this time with an exhibition by Hong Kong artist Ho Sin Tung. The non-profit also held an off-site exhibition, ‘A Journal of the Plague Year: Fear, ghosts, rebels. SARS, Leslie and the Hong Kong story’, curated by Cosmin Costinas and Inti Guerrero, which looked at recent narratives and history in Hong Kong through the lens of different artists’ work including Ai Weiwei, Bernd Behr, Natalia Sui-hung Chan, Oscar Chan Yik Long, Yin-Ju Chen, George Chinnery and Megan Cope.
Art, Art, Art!
Galleria Lorcan O’Neill from Rome presented a fabulous selection of works from Richard Long, Rachel Whiteread, Kiki Smith and Eddie Peake.
Chinese sculptor Yang Xinguang draws on minimalist and Arte Povera discourse (and yes, a touch of Walter de Maria too) with this work, which attracted the attention of scores of collectors. The sculptor is among the strongest example of the new young generation of Chinese artists.
As always, I paid a visit to one of my favourite galleries, Berlin-based Arndt, to say hello to Matthias Arndt and Tobias Sirtl and take a look at their selection of dynamic Indonesian artists, including Entang Wiharso and Eko Nugroho who are also on show as part of the Indonesian pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale.
Chicago and Berlin-based Kavi Gupta gallery had this fantastic Theaster Gates work on display. Thirty-nine year old Chicago-born Gates is hot right now, with a stellar installation at the Pinault Foundation’s Punta della Dogana in Venice, and a star-studded dinner thrown in his honour at the recent Art Basel.
Navid Nuur and Adrian Ghenie, exhibiting with Cluj and Berlin based Galeria Plan B in the Discoveries section, were announced as the winners of the Discoveries Prize for their collaborative project. The Discoveries sector showcased twenty-seven solo and two person exhibitions by emerging artists from across the world. The installation, entitled ‘The Possibility of Purple’ encompassed sound, performance, painting and assemblage while engaging with the history of modern painting and the current language of conceptual art.
Galerie Daniel Templon presented a Miss Havisham-esque kimono suspended in web-like black threads by Japanese-born Berlin-based installation artist, Chiharu Shiota.
I loved this Piotr Uklański pottery mosaic at Massimo de Carlo gallery, Milan. Polish-born Uklański masterfully appropriates this humble and populist medium, common in post-war Poland, as a tool to explore modernist abstraction.
I spotted Diesel jeans mogul Renzo Rosso checking out this piece by Shanghai-based Belgian artist Arne Quinze at Paul Kasmin Gallery, which also had a selection of works by Turkish artist Tanner Ceylan, Walton Ford, and king of gothic kookiness, Mark Ryden.
I love Kara Walker‘s work, and this wall piece (selling for USD 550, 000) at Sikkema Jenkins & Co had my pulse racing.
As Hong Kong pavilion representative at this year’s 55th Venice Biennale, it was no surprise to see local artist Lee Kit‘s work popping up everywhere. His work at China’s Vitamin Creative Space sold in the first hour and his NY gallery, Lombard Freid, dedicated an entire section of its booth to the artist.
Speaking of Gogol, Mumbai’s Volte gallery had this William Kentridge tapestry for sale. The work relates to the South African artist’s 2010 production of the Shostakovich opera, based on Gogol’s ‘The Nose’, at New York’s Met Opera.
As with all Basel fairs, large-scale works were brought to visitors with the Encounters section. Curated by Yuko Hasegawa, the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, 17 large scale works were brought together, mixing Eastern and Western artists including MadeIn Company, Liam Gillick, Jitish Kallat, Seung Yul Oh, and Laurent Grasso.
Seen on the Scene
And look who I bumped into around the fair…
Having opened his solo show at Galerie Perrotin the week of Art Basel HK, Takashi Murakami got ladies’ tongues wagging as Instagram pics circulated of the exhibition’s cartoonish golden sculpture of the prostrate artist, replete with, errr… golden family jewels. Rumour had it that the sculpture was somewhat anatomically correct and ‘left much to be desired’. Here he is, ever obliging with a pose, with his gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin.
Walking past the Whitecube booth (located in the prime real estate sector near the entrance), I spot none other than one of my favourite artists, Mark Bradford, standing in front his large colourful work. I was too shy to ask for a pic, but I managed to snap his super lovely gallerist, Matt Carey-Williams, in front of the large work.
Hong Kong designer, jam-maker extraordinnaire, and turban queen, Paola Sinisterra added some colour to the sartorial landscape.
Art world fixtures Eva and Adele did not turn up to this fair but there were at least a few head-turning outfits at the first Art Basel HK. Former Director of Shanghai’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Victoria Lu, sporting a Kusama-esque red bob was spotted with designer Xiang Tseng, who was responsible for the pair’s floral concoction.
And Hong Kong’s PR and society party gatekeeper, Francis Cheng, was blooming in this outfit while his friend took an art themed approach in this Chinese ink painting-inspired coat.
Quintessentially Art‘s (Quintessentially was Art Basel HK’s concierge partner) Rachael Barrett was admiring the work of one of her favourite artists, Eddie Peake at Galeria Lorcan O’Neil with friend and co-founder of Dubai’s Moving Museum, Simon Sakhai.
Lars Nittve, director of Hong Kong’s future art museum, M+, was doing the rounds of the aisles with architect wife Shideh Shaygan.
One of the nicest curators in the biz, Stephane Ackermann of Istanbul Art International, kept me company around the fair showing me his favourite pieces and chatting with artists.
French curators, the charming Pierre Lefort and Herve Mikaeloff, who recently curated Lehmann Maupin’s Hong Kong show, ‘Writings Without Borders’, sat down with me and chatted about their upcoming projects and the art scene in Azerbaijan (look out for the post-ism interview, coming soon!).
Until the next bigger, bolder and better Art Basel HK!